OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

The following article is not really objective enough to be called a review of Oz: The Great and Powerful. As happens from time to time, through watching the film (which, aside from a couple of decent Sam Raimi gags, I unequivocally loathed) I got to thinking about some wider concerns apart from the film itself. There’s a lot of heavy comparison with the original Oz film, which you may think isn’t fair, but these are the things I was turning over in my mind as I sat through this nightmare.

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A piece of advice for anyone thinking about seeing Oz: The Great and Powerful: the further you can get from the majestic 1939 masterpiece The Wizard of Oz, the more chance you stand of having a good time with the prequel.

For those of us that feel a strong connection to the original film, Disney’s first big release of the year is a trite, overloaded bog of cloying CG, nauseating characters, and a needlessly dark tone that betrays of the innocence of a world so many of us grew up with.

It’s nothing new to observe that many of the big summer pictures of the last decade or so have leaned towards a darker tone, and it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. What I’m going to suggest is that the technique doesn’t necessarily have to be employed in every case, and certainly not for something like this.

I simply want to ask why we are forced to endure the suggested genocide of a race of people (the porcelain villagers of China Town), or the corseted, sexed-up Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis) threatening that the Yellow Brick Road, a symbol only associated with goodness and joy, will run red with the blood of Oz’s fair citizens.

Because it’s 2013, and people demand darkness in their beloved children’s tales? Where is it written that simplicity and purity can’t be part of a successful film anymore?

Why does the arrival of Oz (a leering and feckless James Franco) himself have to be tied up to some tacked on prophecy? It’s a completely unnecessary plot point that adds nothing to the character or the film. Due to the cultural footprint of the original, even people who may not have seen it in a long time, or ever, are probably familiar enough with the story that we know how this film is going to play out.

There was no prophecy about Dorothy’s trip to Oz to defeat the Witch, each of the supporting characters had their motivation set up in little more than a sentence or two, and it’s hard to deny that story turned out pretty well. The simplicity of the story is what worked.

Why, why, does Oz: The Great and Powerful need not one, but two ridiculous sassy sidekick characters? A neurotic flying monkey played by Zach Braff doing his best Woody Allen impression is cute enough until certain shots reveal some ghastly, flat CG work on his face. And the sooner we can free ourselves of Tony Cox’s wise-cracking dwarf schtick the better. It’s a character that we’ve seen over and over again, and am I crazy or is having a character exist for no reason other than so people can laugh at someone different from themselves more than a little offensive?

The tornado that serves as the catalyst for this atrocious movie’s plot just may have been whipped up by L. Frank Baum and Victor Fleming furiously rolling in their graves. Oz: The Great and Powerful is gaudy, tonally inconsistent, over-written nonsense that does its best to tarnish the legacy of one of the all-time classics, a film that will make you wish you could click your heels together and transport yourself out of the cinema, realising it was only a horrible dream.